by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
As the school year draws to a close, one cannot help but reflect on their own time in high school and realize what the Class of 2020 has missed. Of course, prom is only one of the many events graduates have missed out on and for this, I am truly sorry.
Back in the 1950s and 60s prom was very different than today’s extravaganza. It was known as the Junior & Senior Prom because the juniors sponsored the event to honor the seniors. This is how it worked. When a class entered the 8th grade they began massive fundraising. All of the monies raised went to 5 major events; 8th grade graduation, homecoming floats, prom, senior trip and high school graduation. While the senior trip may have been the most expensive, prom expenses exceeded the other three by far.
For most classes planning began during the first week of junior year. The prom committees were formed and a theme was chosen. Of course, it was the goal of every class to out do the previous year. One of the responsibilities was planning a menu for dinner, served in school library before Grain Valley got a cafeteria in 1954.
The meal was served by a group of sophomores and it was considered an honor to be chosen to serve. After the meal, each junior was presented with their class ring, another BIG deal.
Decorations to carry out the theme required months of planning. I remember staying after school for days to make all of the apple blossoms required for the fake trees in the apple orchard at the entrance to the gymnasium.
The gym was closed for classes during the week of prom so decorations could be put in place. The doors were covered with heavy brown paper so no one could get a sneak preview! By midnight on Friday the miraculous transformation had to be completed. While there was no hiding the basketball court lines and circles on the floor or the goals at each end, the fake ceiling hid the balcony, and the walls were covered with crepe paper.
There were no limos, no champagne glass souvenirs, no $100 dinners, and certainly no $500 outfits or $150 to $200 tuxedo rentals. There was a printed invitation that came in the mail, a dance program, favors, a live orchestra and refreshments.
We didn’t have a project graduation but we did have some post-parties. My class met for breakfast the next morning before leaving for our senior trip to Scott Valley Dude Ranch in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
While I don’t know where every class went I do remember my cousins class went to Rock-a-Way Beach and my brother’s class spent a week in Branson. Oh yes, those were the “good old days.”
Visit www.grainvalleyhistory.com to learn more about the Grain Valley Historical Society and “like” the Historical Society on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@grainvalleyhistory).
Top: Indian Summer Prom Queen.
Above: Garden of Friendship themed prom at Grain Valley High School.
Below: Students enjoyed a Southern Plantation themed prom.
Evening in Paris, Hawaiian Cruise, Southern Plantation, Garden of Friendship, Indian Summer, Apple Blossom Time. No these are not destinations, special places, or times of the year. These were Junior & Senior Prom themes for Grain Valley graduates in the 1950s and 60s.
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society